US Navy using 3D printing on ships


The US Navy is upgrading their skills and saving money on spare parts:


By taking a week, 50 people having meetings, and making who knows how many drawings and CAD/CAM files to make a freaking bolt that a real machinist could have done within a couple of hours of it breaking.

And, as long as I am pointing out how stupid they have become … how come the contract for that door mechanism didn’t include a few spare bolts for each installation? Think how fast and “cheap” that would have been.



this is just the interim before robots do all that !!, I was in a reserve army unit (eventually retired) but sailed army when i could get ashore, they had a ship that had a foundry on it, various molds and such. along with dynometer for eng. testing, metal stores, lathes, mills , shear shop, furnaces, etc. etc. Now it has all been put in connex’s so it can be flown to one theatre or another but it won’t be anything like the ship enviornment for the ship was designed as a floating machine shop… or more like a factory !!


It is not realistic to keep spare bolts, most of which will never need to be replaced, for every possible installation on something as complicated as a Navy ship. Managing and storing the inventory would be be a monumental task.


I served on repair ships (tenders) where we had a full service machine shop that could make you anything you needed. We also had a foundry and mold/pattern shop. I can see 3D printing for some items, like electric motor fan blades and other sundry parts you don’t want to keep in stock. Drawings are available for many of these things. I’m not sure that I’d want to make critical or load-bearing items that way, though.


There are various additive machining** techniques/machines that produce solid metal parts with our without post-treatment in an oven.

In this case it was a prototype part made for checking fit. I’m not familiar with the particular machines they have there, but plaster powder with a printed binder has been around for a while.

My impression from the article was that they viewed this as an opportunity to become familiar with the machines, rather than suggesting it was the best way to reproduce a bolt. I would imagine the normal method is still to hand the pieces and bolt spec to a machinist.

**People in the trade seem to prefer “additive machining” rather than “3D Printing”. Sounds more dignified and distinguishes them from hobbyists.


It is very realistic to keep spare special bolts used on mission critical components. If a helo hangar door shuts down all flight ops because a single special bolt breaks, not having a spare means someone really screwed up badly.

The idea that the vendor won’t supply a spare bolt but requires the taxpayer to purchase a complete track assembly means someone needs to be hung from a yardarm … that assumes there is anyone left who knows how to tie a knot.


I find the comments in this topic very useful for my research. We are conducting research aiming to explore the potential of 3D Printing Spare Parts for the Maritime Industry. I started a topic 3D Printing Spare Parts Questionnaire for academic research, trying to get the opinion of people aboard a vessel and land office. We would appreciate if you contribute.
Evanthia(Eva) Kostidi
University of the Aegean


What materials are available for 3D printing?

Plastics? Metal? Ceramics? Composites? Wood?


There are quite a lot of choises, including the materials you mention. One could add alloys, biological materias, polymers, food.


There must be some seriously tough material available: